Primary Arms

Trunk Guns - Good Or Bad Idea? - 2020

A solid AR pistol build is a good trunk gun.

It’s 2020. Civil unrest isn’t just something that happens in some third-world hellhole or a European labor dispute. It’s become a recurrent theme as of late, and it’s probably a prime motivation for you arming up. You’ve got that pistol or rifle, and are hopefully learning all about it’s proper use. In your studies and travels, you’ll probably see some mention of the proverbial “trunk gun”, or “truck gun”

OK, what is a trunk gun/truck gun, and is having such a setup a good or bad idea?

It depends, really…

Let’s start off with the basics.

What Is a Trunk Gun or Truck Gun?

Well, what is a trunk gun or truck gun? Simply put, it’s a firearm that you choose to store inside a truck or other vehicle you are using at a given moment. Generally it’s a weapon that offers you increased capability over your carry sidearm. So usually a trunk gun is a long gun of some sort, be it a rifle or shotgun.

For the remainder of the article, we’ll use “trunk gun” exclusively - since I’m lazy.

For example, you have a 9mm pistol on your hip, such as an H&K VP9 or GLOCK 19, and your trunk gun would be an AR-pattern rifle, an AK of some sort, or a shotgun. Said weapon is stored, well, in the trunk.

But, do you need a trunk gun?

It depends.


Do You Need A Trunk Gun?

Before we consider what makes a good trunk gun, we should probably evaluate whether we need one or not. Yes, as Second Amendment Radicals, we tend to look askance at “need” - but in this case, “need” is a practical and tactical question, not a philosophical one, ha ha.

In my humble opinion, the need of a trunk gun is very situationally-dependent. And with that we should consider the roots of the trunk gun concept.

Where The Concept Of A Trunk Gun Came From

The trunk gun concept, again, is to provide for a weapon that offers you increased capability over your carry sidearm. In law enforcement circles, this has manifested itself in the “patrol carbine“ concept. It used to be that regular patrol officers were only equipped with a pistol, some spare magazines, and an impact weapon such as a baton. In rural jurisdictions, patrol officers often supplemented their load-out with a shotgun, but by and large, long guns such as a AR-pattern rifles were the exclusive provenance of tactical units such as SWAT. However, events like the 1986 Miami shootout where the FBI found themselves at a disadvantage from a determined opponent led to the (slow) adoption of the patrol carbine, ostensibly stored in the trunk of the cruiser, or in a purpose-built rack in the cabin.

On the citizen side, long guns featured in the loadout of many a rural outdoorsman for decades. The stereotypical pickup out in the sticks sported a gunrack with a classic 12-gauge shotgun, or some sort of traditional hunting rifle. This was in acknowledgement of not only hunting culture, but the practical applications of having something besides a pistol in the car. In the rural areas of our nation, distances are great, and reliable assistance is far away, if available at all. Having something on hand with a little more “oomph” than a .38 Special wheelgun could mean the difference between life and death. A long gun close at hand could be used to dispatch aggressive game and provide defense at range.

The roots of the trunk gun concept also outline some basic use cases.

A Trunk Gun For Survival

As we just discussed, the roots of the trunk gun concept on the armed citizen side came from the practical concerns of the rural and semi-rural residents of our nation. Far from ready food sources and even further from emergency assistance, the rural resident or traveler needed to be equipped for all manner of unexpected situations. A vehicle breakdown in the middle of nowhere could be disastrous if the timing proved to be less than ideal. Help could be far, or just not present. A practical rifle, whether it be an 5.56mm AR, 7.62x39mm AK, or a more classic weapon, is essential. So equipped, the ready traveler can effectively defend themselves against aggressive wildlife of the four- and two-legged variety, as well as take small and medium-sized game if the situation drags out for more than a day or two. Combined with a well-stocked survival kit, this hypothetical breakdown becomes nothing more than an unexpected camping trip.

Trunk Guns Are Great Travel Companions

Along the same lines, whether you live in an urban, suburban, or rural environment, a trunk gun is a very useful travel companion. For certain, an unexpected vehicle breakdown can happen almost anywhere. Stranded, having the ability to hunt small and medium game and defend oneself is invaluable. Having that AR-15 in the trunk may just save the lives of yourself and your family. You won’t always experience vehicle difficulty where AAA can help.

Having a trunk gun can also prove invaluable in today’s uncertain times while traveling by land. One may find themselves far from home, and having to carefully plan a return. Incidents of civil unrest could very well impede your progress back to what’s yours. Having a long gun close at hand could prove useful. A road trip loadout, in my opinion, should include one rifle and a standard “combat load” for your chosen platform - i.e. if you have an AR-15 as your trunk gun, you should have 7 loaded magazines of 5.56mm or .223 ammo ready to go with it.

Far from home, but able to effectively get home. Even in calm times, it’s worth bringing “something extra” along.


When Not To Bring A Trunk Gun

A trunk gun isn’t a be-all-end-all for defensive situations. One scenario where it is of limited utility is in a daily urban commute situation. Again, you do you, but in terms of likely assault scenarios, having a properly-holstered pistol at your side, or just plain driving away is far more practical than having to fuss with and deploy a long gun. Driving back and forth to work, your threats are usually more of the random criminal nature than attacks by the proverbial Pineland Liberation Front. If you’re in a situation where the PLF, or other similar groups are making enough of a ruckus to present an enhanced threat during your daily commute, you’ll probably be keenly aware of it - and at that point, I have no qualms about suggesting a trunk gun in the urban environment.

Again, you do you. My recommendation for most “daily driver” defensive situations is to have a quality sidearm and at least 3 spare magazines with your choice of defensive ammunition.

Another thing to remember, as Regular Guys and Girls, we’re (unless you are) not law enforcement. For example, if we’re in a building and things go violent, and all we have is a pistol, forget about the trunk gun - if you are exiting the building, you’re leaving, for good. By the time you get your trunk gun up and ready, the situation is over, and/or law enforcement is on hand. You swinging in with an AR at the ready could prove to be more harmful than good.

Practical Concerns For A Trunk Gun

OK, you’ve made the decision. You’re going to dedicate a long gun of some sort to bring along in your vehicle. It’s not as simple as tossing it into the trunk and driving off. There’s a few other concerns beyond the choice of firearm.

Storing Your Trunk Gun

Just tossing your chosen rifle or shotgun into the trunk isn’t the best course of action. To cover all your bases, it must be secured. A sturdy vehicle lockbox is definitely recommended. Of course, the more secure your trunk gun is when not in use, the less accessible it is. Again, it’s worth remembering your use case. If the threat is imminent, having to go for your trunk gun while in the vehicle can prove time-consuming and detrimental, especially under stress. For example, in one of my vehicles, the trunk is inaccessible from the interior of the car - a trunk gun may as well be on the other side of the moon in that case. If it’s an immediate emergency and I’m in my car - I’m using a pistol or just driving away. If I’m exiting the vehicle, I’m exposing myself to the threat and concentrating on fetching a gun, not addressing the threat.

However, if the situation is more static, i.e. a breakdown in the middle of nowhere, I have ample time to unsecure and make ready a trunk gun.

Regardless, a secure storage solution is a must. Vehicle safes from reputable firms like SnapSafe, Hornady, and Vaultek come to mind.

Take Your Trunk Gun Inside At Night!

For practical and “technical” reasons, it’s not advisable to use your vehicle as a 24/7 storage rig for your trunk gun. First off, the wildly-varying temperatures inside your trunk are not good for the life of the ammo, and can accelerate corrosion on the firearm itself. Also, with vehicle break-ins being a thing, you don’t want to be an unwitting provider of armaments to the local urban outdoorsmen. Even with a secure vault, don’t do it. Theives can just take the car wholesale and break into the vault at their leisure.

Even police vehicles have been compromised before, with pistols, rifles, and even full-auto weapons being stolen.

Get yourself a nice diversion bag, and bring it inside when done for the day.

Transporting Your Trunk Gun

Your trunk gun may not be “on you” but the law still comes into play. For example, certain government properties ban firearms on their premises, whether it’s on your person or in your trunk. Schools come to mind. Also certain strategic facilities like nuclear power plants forbid this. So if you work at Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, you can’t bring your trunk gun onto the property. Check your local laws - is a great starting point. Also, if traveling through multiple states, be aware of local gun control laws, and also the attiude of local law enforcement. For example, driving from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire by way of New York and Massachusetts would require you to unload all weapons, and not stop for anything more than a restroom break in New York and Mass. However, if your trunk gun is an AR with standard magazines and other evil features, peaceable journey protections may be ignored by the local police, and you could find yourself in hot water for possessingn an evil ‘assault weapon’ in New York State, if pulled over and searched. Again, check the laws.

Be Discreet With Your Vehicle And Yourself

If you’re rolling with a trunk gun, it’s important to remember that while it’s in your vehicle, the vehicle itself becomes the “safe”, even if you have a proper storage solution inside. Thieves go for the obvious and shiny targets. While it might seem hip to put a III%, GLOCK or NRA sticker on your car just to piss off the officious-looking Fordham grad stuck in traffic behind you, you’re also making your vehicle a target. That “Keep Honking, I’m Reloading” sticker (remember those? Good times…) basically suggests there’s a gun inside the vehicle. They may not take you on in traffic, but they’ll wait for you to park somewhere, and then in they go. Also, in today’s politically-charged environment, stickers of a more “right” bent may attract casual vandalism, at the least.

Stickers? Don’t do it. Besides, if the folk in Böblingen wanted a sticker there, they would have put one.

Also consider the walk from your vehicle to your home. You are taking your trunk gun with you, right? Don’t stick it in a gun case - find yourself a suitable diversion bag. Your neighbors will think you took up tennis. Truth be told, I’d probably make a decent John McEnroe acolyte.

What To Get For A Trunk Gun

Again, the idea of a trunk gun is to offer a weapon that has increased capabilities over your sidearm. Whether it’s for survival in the wilderness, or survival in a potential civil disturbance, you’ve made the decision to tool up with the modern day coach gun. So, what should you get?

A Rifle-Caliber Pistol

The idea behind a trunk gun is to be portable and discreet, while being able to deliver the aforementioned enhanced capabilities to the user. And for that, an AR or AK-style pistol can’t be beat. Whether it’s purchased, or assembled, you can’t go wrong with a quality weapon in this configuration. Bonus points for a folding brace of some sort, which can be accomplished with folding mechanisms such as the one from Law Tactical.

A Pistol-Caliber Carbine

In some cases, you may want to “standardize” - if you’ve got a 9mm GLOCK 17 on your hip, it could prove advantageous to have a pistol-caliber carbine that accepts GLOCK magazines as your trunk gun. That way, you can use a common source of magazines and ammo in an emergency. A “PCC” is more suitable for an urban setup, since pistol calibers are typically not ideal for survivalist situations in the rural areas and wilderness where one may need to hunt or dispatch game. All manner of pistol-caliber carbines exist, but it’s best to stick with components and complete weapons from known manufacturers. At the least, your PCC should accept GLOCK magazines.

Avoid NFA Items As Trunk Guns

While it may be tempting to have a true short-barreled rifle (SBR), a suppressed weapon of some sort, or even a full-on (lucky you!) machine gun as a trunk gun, this is definitely not advisable, simply because of the legal ramifications surrounding the transport, use, and potential theft of the weapon.

As we’ve been over before, SBRs present a challenge for interstate transport, since legally you have to notify the ATF when you move the item out of state, even temporarily. Same thing for a machine gun, as well.

Also, utilizing an NFA item in defensive situation out of the home can raise a few eyebrows. Maybe not an SBR so much, but definitely if you employ a suppressed weapon or a machine gun in a “trunk gun defensive situation”, questions will be asked - even if your situation is otherwise perfectly legal. Nevermind the press fallout over “some guy with a machine gun”.

Theft becomes a bigger concern as well, since if an NFA item is stolen, it automatically becomes a federal affair. Leave the cool-ass stuff at home. Besides, outside of some specific situations, there’s really not a lot of use cases for full-auto. You’ll be fine with a normal Title I gun.

Disclaimer: I want the NFA gone as much as anyone, but I do live in the real world, and wouldn’t take the risk of using an NFA item as a trunk gun. Getting that out of the way before any of you call me “squish” on the Second Amendment. I’m not Justice Roberts. Oooh snap.


You Do You

At this point in time, I personally don’t roll with a trunk gun. Despite the current “tense” situation, my actual area of operations, as it were, is quite peaceful and easygoing. There’s protests, sure - but it only got froggy once at the beginning of the summer. And even then, if I had gotten caught up in a situation, I would have done fine with a pistol and a decent loadout of spare mags and ammo in a proper holster/pouch.

However, your situation and data collected may present a different picture. You may be in one of the more contentious cities out west. The colder weather is coming and you may be taking to the desolate and freezing roads of the great plains and mountains, and a trunk gun might just be what the doctor ordered.

Again - you do you. I hope my overview of the concept helps fill in some blanks, but in the end, the decision to roll with heavier firepower, or firepower period, lies with you.

Be cautious, safe, and keep your powder dry.

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